I already told you that making your own salad dressing is one of the easiest and best things you can do to avoid vegetable oil (read why you should be avoiding that here.) I thought it was high time to share a recipe for one of these salad dressings – specifically, my husband’s favorite…the balsamic vinaigrette!
Once upon a time, I was going to night classes for teaching (see my career story here). During that time, I had approximately 15 minutes to make myself food, that I would then take with me to class. I ended up eating a LOT of dinner salads, and occasional bowls of quinoa, which got super boring. I only knew how to make one dressing at the time: standard Italian.
It was time to apply one of my favorite principals: make a bad thing good.
I figured that since I was stuck eating a bunch of dinner salads anyway, it was time to figure out how to make new kinds of salad dressing!
1. Extremely easy
2. Extremely fast
3. Taste good
4. Not involve Google. I really only had 15 minutes to get food and get out the door. Since I usually leave my Internet OFF when I am work during the day, waiting for it to boot up was time-prohibitive.
After some failures that I ate anyway (because I had no choice….), I developed some pretty awesome salad dressings, the first of which was a balsamic vinaigrette. It’s actually my husband’s favorite oil-based dressing and he requests it regularly.
What to Look For
An oil-and-vinegar salad dressing has a few basic components:
- An acid. This is typically the vinegar, though it can be lemon juice or a combination of vinegar and lemon juice.
- Oil. This is often 2/3 or 3/4 of the liquid in the recipe. The less oil you add, the “sharper” the dressing will taste
- Sweetener. A small amount of sweetener will help blend the flavor together and make the flavors more mild. If you like a sharper dressing, you can leave this out.
- Seasoning. This gives you the herb flavors! Dijon mustard is a pretty common salad dressing “cheat” ingredient – it gives a really nice flavor to a lot of dressings, and acts as an emulsifier. You can also add herbs, garlic, fruit, or anything else you can think of.
- Salt. This is a “seasoning” but it’s a critical ingredient. If you followed the recipe, taste your dressing, and it seems a little off, you probably need more salt. Salt helps bring out the good flavors and melds them all together. The salt content will vary a little bit, depending on the exact ingredients that you use. Start with the baseline value I gave you here, and add a little more if needed. If you’re not an experienced cook, just experiment – you’ll quickly learn to identify the “sweet spot” of salt content, which applies if you’re making dressing, soup, gravy, or pretty much anything else.
Don’t forget that you can scale this recipe up or down, depending on how much you need. This makes enough for my husband and I to have side salads for about 3-4 days.
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp each, but I tend to like things more on the peppery side. I would recommend starting with 1/4 tsp and adjusting from there).
I want to note that the KEY to this recipe, is using good quality oil and vinegar. I buy my olive oil from Costco (this brand, though it’s WAY cheaper – about half the price – to buy it at Costco), and I buy this brand of balsamic vinegar. These are both mid-grade brands – they aren’t cheap and flavorless but they aren’t gourmet either. I have, on rare occasion, bought lower and higher quality brands than the ones listed above, and the difference (worse or better) is obvious. The better your ingredients, the better your dressing.
- Dump all ingredients into a bowl. I prefer to mix this up in a glass measuring
cup to make less dishes
- Whisk until honey is fully dissolved and everything is well-combined.
- Pour into salad dressing bottle or Mason jar. This will allow you to shake it before use (the oil and vinegar will separate fairly quickly. Homemade dressings don’t contain chemical emulsifiers to keep them blended).
- Shake, dress salad, and eat.
- Store at room temperature. I’ve had this out for as long as 2 weeks with no problems. If you store it in the fridge, the oil will harden over time, and you will have to let it “thaw” before using it. You can totally do that if you want…but why not just store it on the counter or in a cabinet?